Personal adornment in the Prehistory of the Northern Danube territory: aesthetic or socio-cultural symbol?



Personal adornments are an inexhaustible source of reflection because by means of these objects, we can identify the symbolic behavior of the prehistoric groups, but also they can reflect some socio-economic aspects of these communities or they may become the markers of borders and the network trades in Prehistory. This project aims to analyse the prehistoric personal ornaments from the Northern Danube territory, following several aspects: 1. characterisation of prehistoric societies, in particular their social organisation, exchange systems and ethno-cultural units, through the study of personal ornaments found in necropolis and settlements; 2. creation of experimental reference collections for the ...
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Scientific context and motivation

History of the personal adornments was written in the same time as that of the Homo sapiens, being a marker of modernity (e.g., d’Errico et al.2005; Vanhaeren 2006; Bouzouggaret al.2007). They represent one of the few modalities through which we may accede to information regarding the social and spiritual structure of the prehistoric communities. It is unanimously accepted that beyond their esthetic function, personal adornments represent the proof for the existence of a complex communication system (Wynn and Coolidge 2007; Botha 2008; Henshilwood and Dubreuil 2009, 2011; Kuhn and Stiner 2007; Kuhn 2014; Stiner 2014) transmitting messages on: the affiliation ...
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Project justification

Considering this multitude of significations, it has been underlined the remarkable importance of the ornament in the reconstruction of the social structure within the prehistoric communities, in the identification of the geographic limits and, implicit, of the practiced exchange system (eg., Newell 1990; Rigaud 2011; Taborin1993; Trubitt 2002; Vanhaeren et al. 2006 etc.). Despite the general interest manifested for this topic and a rich european literature concerning the appearance and evolution of personal adornments, the tehnological, traseological, ethno-archaeological studies have had little impact on the archaeological record, or even largely failed to enter the Romanian archaeological mainstream literature. A factor that ...
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(1) Choosing the methods and instruments of investigation, in relation to the newest approaches from the theme field, and how they will be integrated. The study will be conducted according to the following methodological principles: a) mapping of available knowledge and state of the art; b) enrichment of this heritage through the production of new data by case study and then by regional synthesis. At the level of the investigation methods, we intend to compare and integrate the indicators of personal adornments evolution established for the two sequences (Neolithic/Eneolithic) in order to address the following questions: (a) Were these changes induced ...
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Team of project

- Monica Mărgărit - project leader; - Lazăr Răduș Alexandru Cătălin - young researcher - he will assure the archeological background; - Ignat Theodor-Aurelian -  young researcher - he will investigate the ceramic ornaments and he will participate at the experimental program; - Dulamă Ioana-Daniela - young researcher  - she will coordinate SEM+EDS analyses on the ornaments and pigments: - Teodorescu Sofia - young researcher - she will coordinate the personal adornments analysis by RAMAN spectroscopy; - Știrbescu Raluca Maria - young researcher - she will coordinate the personal adornments analysis by FTIR spectroscopy; - Zavalaș Theodor-Valentin - doctoral student - he deals with the ...
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Understanding the considerable potential of personal adornments for revealing important aspects of the social and religious life of prehistoric communities, the central purpose of this paper is to analyse and compare the types of ornaments used in the North of the Danube, especially along the Neolithic and Eneolithic, to provide an integrated image on the modalities in which the use of certain types of ornaments had socio-economical effects. The investigations will cover as priority domains: the evolution of the ornaments types (e.g., mutations in the raw materials selection or in the processing of certain raw materials) and of correlative human ...
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Scientific report 2018

The first objective - Organizing the activities and drafting the project development plan for the entire team - due to its exclusively organizational character, will not have quantifiable results in the near future, but they will reflect, in exchange, during the entire period of the project implementation. Thus, in the weekly reunions, with the entire team of the project, we identified the action strategies and we made a planning of the working program, for each of the team members. An important activity of this objective had in view the launching of the project website (the optimum structure, in order to ...
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International Colloquium BEAUTY AND THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER: PERSONAL ADORNMENTS ACROSS THE MILLENNIA (Organizers: Monica Mărgărit and Adina Boroneanț), Târgoviste, 12-14 September 2019

History of personal adornments overlaps the history of Homo sapiens, with first adornments produced and wore by the most ancient modern humans in Africa and elsewhere. Such artefacts are an inexhaustible source of reflection as they carry the means of uncovering the symbolic and religious behaviors of prehistoric groups; they may reflect certain social aspects of human communities; they highlight cultural borders and network trades throughout the history of humankind. When moving from the general to the particular, the study of personal adornments may also yield information regarding the technical skills and economic development specific to a certain community. The ...
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Scientific report 2019

First objective of the project was the accomplishment of the laboratory research through multidisciplinary analysis, with the purpose of obtaining a maximum of information regarding the analyzed subject. The main activity of this objective aimed to achieve a standard analyze chart, in which to insert the data of macro- and microscopic nature of each artifact. In the next stage of work, there was recorded the multidisciplinary data obtained in the archaeological research, from archaeological sites. In order to facilitate the access to the collections proposed for the study, collaborations were initiated with the "Vasile Pârvan" Archeology Institute of Romanian Academy, ...
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Between worlds and elites at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age in the Lower Danube Basin: a pluridisciplinary approach to personal ornaments (Authors: A. Frînculeasa, D. Garvăn, M. Mărgărit, A. Bălășescu, I. Lazăr, M. Frînculeasa, D.A. Soficaru, M. Molnar, M. Georgescu). Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences (ISI journal),

The territory situated to the north of the Lower Danube represents the ideal space for observing the interaction between local communities, local environment and newcomers who arrived here at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. Thousands of burial mounds and relatively few flat graves present an array of common or exceptional inventories, indicating a very dynamic society. Among these grave inventories, the ornaments, beyond their primary symbolism (religious, social, cultural), generate important information which, properly exploited and systematically treated, allows the exploration of social practices in the context of the development of elites in prehistory. This study highlights the ...
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BEAUTY AND THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. Personal adornments across the millennia (ed. by Monica Mărgărit and Adina Boroneanț), Cetatea de Scaun Publishing, 2020, 445 pag

The message of personal adornments is not an easy one to decipher. Nevertheless, they provide an insight to the many aspects (social, spiritual, economic, etc.) of human behaviour, personal expression, relationships and communication. Understanding the complicated social and technical aspects of adornments generally require a broad spectrum of technical and methodological approaches as well as a good knowledge of the state of research and numerous local case-studies. Beyond the aesthetic impact, at times secondary in traditional societies, personal adornments represents a language in itself, a complex communication system, conveying clear messages on ethnic, gender and age class affiliation. They are ...
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Prehistoric adornments from Cuina Turcului (Authors: Monica Mărgărit, Adina Boroneanț, Clive Bonsall), Cercetări Arheologice (BDI journal), 2020 (accepted)

In this study we examine in detail the prehistoric personal adornments from Cuina Turcului rockshelter (Mehedinți County, Romania). Early Mesolithic (‘Epipalaeolithic’) and Early Neolithic assemblages are compared from the perspectives of context, typology and use-wear. Ornaments from the ‘Epipalaeolithic’ horizons include shells of freshwater gastropods (Lithoglyphus naticoides, Lithoglyphus apertus, Theodoxus danubialis), marine gastropods (Tritia sp.) and scaphopods. Mammalian teeth (Cervus elaphus, Sus scrofa, Canis lupus, Castor fiber, etc.) were perforated. Pendants were obtained by perforating fish vertebrae, as well as segments of mammalian bone and antler. During the Early Neolithic, the shells of Lithoglyphus naticoides and Theodoxus danubialis continued to ...
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Personal adornments discovered in the Boian funerary contexts: necropolis of Sultana-Valea Orbului (Călărași county, Romania) (Authors: Monica Mărgărit, Mădălina Dimache), Studii de preistorie (BDI journal) 16, 2019, p.15-39

The necropolis of Sultana-Valea Orbului (Călărași county) has been investigated by Done Șerbănescu (starting with 1974). Over 250 inhumation graves which were attributed to the Boian culture have been discovered. For this study, we analyzed the archaeological assemblage preserved in the Museum of Gumelnița Civilization from Oltenița (Călărași county) belonging to seven graves. The personal adornments are mainly manufacturated from Spondylus valve. The bracelets were made by an extremely unitary technological transformation scheme of raw material. On the external side, the median area of the valve was removed. The valve was also abrased on the internal side in order to ...
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Personal adornments in the Prehistory of the Northern Danube area: from aesthetic to socio-cultural symbol (Author: Monica Mărgărit), Cetatea de Scaun Publishing, 2019, 172 p.

After a short introduction dedicated to the possible significations of the prehistoric personal adornments, the following sections were structured chronologically: the first part refers to the hunter-gatherer communities (the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic) north of the Danube, followed by the second chapter focused on the farmer-breeder communities inhabiting the same territory during the Neolithic and Eneolithic. North of the Danube, the first personal adornments appeared during the Upper Palaeolithic: various pendants of bone and stone, perforated teeth or perforated shells of gastropods. In the Early Holocene, the Mesolithic communities use both local aquatic resources (Lithoglyphus sp., Theodoxus sp., Zebrina sp.) and ...
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Discoidal beads: Novel elements of the Starcevo Early Neolithic package (Authors: Adina Boroneanț, Monica Mărgărit, Clive Bonsall). In: V. Sîrbu, A. Comșa, D. Hortopan (eds ), Digging in the past of Old Europe, Studies in honour of Cristian Schuster at his 60th anniversar. Editura Istros a Muzeului Brăilei “Carol I”, Tg. Jiu – Brăila, 2019, p. 51-72

Personal ornaments (beads, pendants, rings and bracelets) made from various raw materials (shell, bone, tooth, stone, ceramic) have been recovered from a relatively small number of Early Neolithic sites in Southeast Europe. This paper reviews the evidence of the beads from Early Neolithic Romania and the neighbouring areas, with one specific bead type (flat disc beads) representing an innovative form that appears to have spread through Southeast and Central Europe as part of the ‘Neolithic package’. We review such finds from Romania and place them within the broader regional context of the Starčevo (in particular) and Early Neolithic (in general) ...
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A set of red deer canine imitations from the Iron Age necropolis at Valea Stânii (Argeş County, Romania) (Authors: Dragoș Măndescu, Mihai Constantinescu, Monica Mărgărit), Acta Archaeologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae (BDI journal), 70(2), 2019, p. 301-315

Red deer canine ornaments have been known since the Upper Paleolithic as symbolic markers of the status of the possessor. A recent discovery made at the Iron Age cremation necropolis of Valea Stânii (Romania) probably provides the latest prehistoric occurence of this type of personal adornment. This find was part of the grave goods in the burial in the barrow 4, a double grave (an adult woman and a subadult individual of unidentified sex). Among the cremated bones of the subadult were found 16 personal adornments made of red deer antler, imitating red deer canines. Most likely, the ornaments were ...
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Hard animal materials industry in the Gumelnița tell-settlement of Pietrele – re-evaluation of the old archaeological collections (Authors: Monica Mărgărit, Meda Toderaș), Materiale și Cercetări Arheologice XV (SN) 2019 (BDI journal), p. 61-80

Tell-settlement of Pietrele is a landmark for knowledge of the Gumelnița communities north of the Danube. Archaeological research began in 1943 under the direction of D. Berciu. He published a synthesis report of the findings but it was just a quantitative enumeration without a description of the technological and use-wear marks on the pieces made of hard animal materials. Consequently, we tried to identify how many of the archaeological pieces from the old excavations are still present in the collection and then to present another type of analysis on which to draw conclusions related to the economic and spiritual characteristics ...
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Personal adornments from the Eneolithic necropolis of Chirnogi-Șuvița Iorgulescu (Romania): a picture of prehistoric communities symbolism (Authors: Monica Mărgărit, Mădălina Dimache), Documenta Praehistorica XLVI (BDI journal), 2019, p. 398-413

The Necropolis of Chirnogi – Şuviţa Iorgulescu (Călărași county) was located on the high terrace of the Danube and was investigated by Done Șerbănescu (in 1989) by means of the archaeological excavations carried out for the construction of the Danube-Bucharest Channel. For this study, we analyzed the archaeological assemblage preserved in the Museum of Gumelnița Civilization from Oltenita (Călărași county) coming from 10 graves, out of a total of 58, which are attributed to the Gumelnița culture (the second half of the 5th millennium BC). The personal adornments are mainly bracelets made of Spondylus valve (16 specimens) which appear in ...
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Personal adornments in the Romanian Eneolithic: Local versus exotic raw materials (Author: Monica Mărgărit), Quaternary International (ISI journal), no. 539, 2020, p. 49-61

Prehistoric personal adornments have benefited from detailed studies because they are an inexhaustible source of reflection. From these objects can be identified the symbolic and religious behaviour of prehistoric groups; they may also reflect the socio-economic aspects of these communities and may even serve as markers of cultural boundaries and exchange networks in prehistory. Appreciating the considerable potential of personal adornments, the central purpose of this study is to analyse and compare the types of ornaments used by Eneolithic communities (c. 5000-3500 BC) in the area to the north of the Danube, to provide an integrated image on the ways ...
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P1-Development of the National Research and Development System
Subprogramme 1.1. – Human Resources
Financing instruments: Research Projects to Stimulate Young Independent Teams – ET
Subdomain: The Study of the Human Past: Archaeology and history
Project Number: 128/2018
Project Code: PN-III-P1-1.1-TE-2016-0182
Project Duration: 24 Months
Contracting Authority: Executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation (UEFISCDI)
Host Institution: Valahia University of Târgoviște
Project Leader: PhD Monica Mărgărit
Budget: 449.995 Lei

Project leader: Monica Mărgărit
Valahia University of Targoviște
Adress: B-dul Regele Carol I, No. 2, Targoviște, Dambovița County